Curious how County Executive John R. Leopold's private attorney rang up nearly a $21,000 tab to taxpayers in two weeks?

Until last month, county attorneys defended Leopold in the 2-year-old gender discrimination case that alleges he created a hostile workplace for women and fired a press aide who complained. Leopold has denied wrongdoing.

Recently, though, attorneys determined that Leopold's interests and those of county government may no longer align, so the county hired a private, $450-an hour attorney and her firm to represent him at taxpayers' expense. The county revealed last week that the Thatcher Law Firm billed the county $20,331.06 for services during the last two weeks of August.

A copy of the invoice from the Greenbelt-based firm, released in response to a Baltimore Sun request under the Public Information Act, offers a glimpse into how the legal fees accrued and shows the county negotiated down from the initial bill of $22,153.81.

Most expenses for the billed 70 hours deal with the new attorneys catching up on the case. Among the costs:

$6,350 for meetings with Leopold and county attorneys, plus sending them emails and preparing for the meetings.

$1,662.50 for "digests" of depositions of four police officers involved in the case.

$586.25 for printing and organizing the case's paperwork.

$549 for writing the letter, and emails, to engage the firm's legal services.

$113.36 for computer research.

$493.75 to create a timeline of events.

$103.95 for 692 photocopies.

County Attorney Jonathan Hodgson disputed some of those costs, and his revisions ultimately cut the bill.

Hodgson has said that state law requires the county government to provide a defense for employees accused of wrongdoing. When asked if Leopold could choose to pay the bill himself, Hodgson said Leopold is not prohibited from making a donation to the county. Hodgson expects monthly invoices on the costs as the case moves forward.

—Erin Cox